What started as an annual April Fools joke has now turned into reality, but the process of adding loose surface racing into the iRacing.com simulation environment has proved to be a task the staff over in Bedford, Massachussetts are willing to cut corners on. If you haven’t checked out the rather detailed interview with Tony Gardner over on VirtualR.net, you owe yourself an adventure over to their neck of the woods so you can read some of the astonishing answers for yourself. Obviously, we take a very critical stance towards the massive online-only racing simulator for a variety of reasons, whether it be the game’s constantly evolving tire model, continuous set of glitches, or interesting censorship tactics, but very rarely do we get a chance to catch the iRacing staff admitting to reducing the complexity of the software.
Some excerpts from the interview VirtualR have conducted with Tony Gardner are extremely questionable. iRacing is a title that is aimed at the most hardcore group of virtual auto racing fans, and prides itself on offering the most accurate and complex simulator environment within the genre – or so the marketing campaign has led you to believe. Despite being based on a physics engine first seeing use in 1998’s Grand Prix Legends, and whose final retail revision prior to iRacing came in 2003 with the release of NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, iRacing’s pricing range asks you to set aside nearly one thousand dollars to explore all content the simulator has to offer, and commercial licenses are rumored to be in the four-digit category before you’re asked to buy individual content for each simulator pod.
What I’m getting at, is that from a pure customer standpoint, the marketing tactics used by the company imply they’re not fucking around – iRacing is the real deal, and their recent push to say “yes, we’re indeed working on bringing dirt to the simulation” is something the overall sim racing community should look forward to.
And then we see this little nugget of information.
If you’ve ever been to your local short track – and this applies primarily to the North American readers of PRC – it’s fairly common for these facilities have the pit area organized outside of the race track, with the infield used primarily for safety vehicles and track marshals or photographers. As the traditional Saturday night events are split into heat races – short bursts of action where pit stops simply aren’t needed – there isn’t actually a use for a proper pit lane assembly. iRacing deems modelling each of these track in a realistic manner to be too difficult, and they will either reconfigure or outright skip tracks with an external pit area. Gardner then deems the reason behind this as “most don’t think starting from the outside is fun,” as if none of the hardcore sim nerds – the audience they’ve made the game for in the first place – will care that they’ve just sort of made up a fake pit road.
It’s apparently too difficult for iRacing themselves to go through with crafting an external pit lane, but in the exact same engine, NASCAR Racing 2003 Season third party content creators have ran into zero problems creating external pit areas. You can see an example of this prominently displayed in the picture below at EarSplitter Expo Center. Yeah, it’s ugly as shit, because this was a track made many years ago, but the point is that iRacing literally just came out and told everybody they don’t want to overcome obstacles that community modders building tracks in their jammies at three in the morning had no problems navigating.
And don’t worry, this somehow gets better – or worse depending on your opinions regarding iRacing. At a different point in the article, Gardner is asked whether heat races will be introduced to the software alongside dirt racing, as both Global Rallycross and all short track events operate on the heat racing format. For those that need a bit of a lesson on what heat racing, it’s pretty damn simple: the entire grid is separated into smaller packs and forced to participate in short ten lap sprint races, with the highest finishing cars of each group combined together for a much longer main event. Again, this is how both rallycross and short track oval racing events are contested. Gardner says he doesn’t see this coming to the software in the foreseeable future – which he comically refers to as “soon.”
So aside from the physics issues which still haven’t been fully rectified to be on par with the technically superior isiMotor engine, and the various quips regarding portions of the dynamic track surface still not working to the extent most of the hardcore users would like, iRacing now comes out and says dirt racing will look fundamentally different than it does in real life. For the alleged bargain price of $900 to own all current content for a piece of software marketed as the ultimate auto racing simulator, iRacing proceeds to drop the hardcore approach the moment their upcoming project throws them a curveball, admitting they don’t feel the need to build an accurate depiction of a dirt oval, nor do they feel the need to conduct online races in an authentic manner.
Especially when it comes to the way certain rules are enforced. A clearly flustered Tony Gardner dances around questions regarding short track-specific event procedures, eventually admitting they technically don’t need to follow any real world event formats, because they are their own sanctioning body. I’m personally a bit lost here. They’re striving to be the most accurate virtual racing environment, but when reminded of how these events work in real-life, instead Tony begins making excuses as to why they don’t need to replicate these procedures within iRacing.
Last, but most certainly not the least, Gardner can’t give a definite answer on whether proper dirt late model setup techniques will work within the virtual environment. He didn’t even think to ask that question to the team himself.
I’m pretty impressed. Usually for articles focused on iRacing, we have to rely on circumstantial evidence and other oddities that can’t easily be demonstrated to help complete the story. Here, the president of iRacing comes right out to the press and basically tells the sim racing community that the most hardcore auto racing simulator currently available has now drawn a line in the sand and said that many elements unique to dirt track racing will simply not be present – even as kids on the internet have already proved it’s not entirely difficult to implement them.